Saturday, 15 September 2012
As usual I've been buying books left, right and centre recently, and so when I saw the cover of Sweet Tooth and read the synopsis, I thought it looked fairly promising and decided to give it a go. I've read a few of Ian McEwan's books before, with mixed results. Some of them, like The Cement Garden, have been really haunting and weird, and others have been very dull.
He strikes me as an author that takes himself way too seriously, and he also seems to have a sexually perverted streak. There's nothing wrong with that in itself, it's more that it feels incredibly creepy coming from a middle-aged white dude. For example The Cement Garden is about three siblings whose father is dead. When their mother dies they are so worried that they will be taken into care that they bury her body in poorly-mixed cement and then start having sex with one another. I remember reading some of his short stores, too, one of which was from the point of view of a paedophile, I think? But it wasn't interesting or edgy, just sort of dull.
Which is exactly what I came away thinking of Sweet Tooth. For a 350-page book, nothing much happens. It's about a girl who has always sort of liked reading, but gets pushed into doing a maths degree. At university se meets a sugar daddy professor who begins to groom her for entry into MI5, which sounds much more exciting than it is. In reality, she is more like a secretary, and she has a series of bumbling kisses with one of her superiors, and then gets selected for operation 'Sweet Tooth'.
The government are trying to foster anti-communist views, and so they want her to groom a young writer to produce works that will capture the public interest and turn them away from any lefty views. She ends up falling for the writer, however their relationship is so incredibly dull that I could barely stand to finish the book. The characters are I insipid and self-centred little children, and by the end I didn't give a shit whether they were happy/maimed/tired/dead etc. The writer doesn't know that she's really a spy, and she is terrified of him finding out. Of course her jealous ex-lover eventually tells him, and the ending of the book is an overly long, gratuitous letter berating and forgiving her at the same time and blah blah blah. So dull!
There was only one line that made me sort of laugh, so I'll repeat it here:
"She seemed at ease, almost an equal, clearly empowered to make a joke,causing him to give a shout of a laugh and place his hand on her forearm briefly, as if to say, restrain that wit of yours or you'll make my life impossible."
Next: Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf.
Sunday, 9 September 2012
Horns is the story of Ig, who wakes up one morning and finds that he has a pair of devil horns growing out of his head. He soon figures put that they have a very odd effect on people, in that they can't really seem to see them, however being in front of Ig seems to make the, want to confess their deepest and most horrible desires. Ig is somewhat of a pariah after the unsolved murder of his girlfriend the year before, and with the horns he finds out that everyone around him has secretly been hating him. He also finds out other weird things, like that his local priest has been shagging all the desperate housewives in the town, and that his two local redneck cops are gay for each other. The horns also seem to make people want to act on their horrible desires, and they ask Ig for permission, however he can't force them into doing something they don't already want to do.
One of the things he finds out from his brother is the he knows who killed his girlfriend, and he makes it his mission to kill him.
The book did a really good job of switching between the past and the present, and there was also a little time loop thing that was really cool and a little sad. I guess it's about getting in touch with and embracing your darker side, but also a lot about love. It touched on lots of things that stuck with me, like early relationships and how intense they are when you're really young. There is one particular part of the book set in a treehouse that I actually found really sad and it made me shed a little tear. Very good.
I've bought Joe Hill's other book of short stories to read, and if he's anything like his dad then they will be excellent.
Next: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan